Just a few weeks after the Twins cut ties with the Rochester Red Wings as their Triple-A affiliate, an announcement was made last Wednesday that brought smiles to many Minnesotans’ faces – their beloved St. Paul Saints hit the big-time.
For 28 seasons, the Saints have hosted independent league baseball – most recently through the American Association, joining in 2006 – and have captivated the local crowds. Known for their kooky between-inning hijinks, fans could watch hog races, spot Team Psychologist Bill Murray mingling in the crowd, or interact with the “Ushertainers” such as Chef or Mudanna during the game.
Since 1993, fans were treated to see future big-leaguers like Darryl Strawberry and Jason Varitek, meteoric rises in players like Brandon Kintzler and Caleb Thielbar, and even see some old veterans play one last time like a 67-year-old Minnie Minoso.
It’s a tradition that carved its own niche in the Twin Cities. Aside from the Saints and the Northwoods League, high-level baseball is hard to find in Minnesota. In fact, prior to last week, the state did not have any affiliates in Single-A or higher.
With some of the rumors over the last few weeks, many Saints fans were anxious about the impending news. They were worried that the Saints they had come to know for the past few decades would also change.
Thankfully, the new agreement changes very little about the day-to-day routine of the Saints ballclub. According to Saints chairman Marv Goldklang, during his conversations with team owner Jim Pohlad and President Dave St. Peter, the team “emphasized their respect for what the Saints have accomplished and made clear that, with the exception of the players on the field, they don’t expect much, if anything, to change in terms of the experience of attending a Saints’ game.”
Earlier today the Saints also sought out their fans and solidified that ticket prices were also staying the same, regardless of the increase in talent on the field.
With the transparency evident since day one of the new partnership, this could only be a win-win for the Minnesota area.
First and foremost, the travel distance (or lack thereof) from Twins players moving to and from the MLB to AAA is going to keep them very well-rested. Players only need to travel twelve miles between cities. Heck, they could even take the light rail!
Previously, the closest the Twins ever had an AAA-affiliate was in Toledo, most recently in 1986. That’s 650 miles from Target Field. A 12-mile difference is easily the closest proximity from AAA to MLB club, especially now that the Staten Island Yankees went defunct.
It’s also a big win for the fans. Sure, the entertainment value for the Saints will stay the same, but imagine being able to see a AAA game in the afternoon, then traveling about 20 minutes away to see the big boys play later that night. Fans are going to be a whole new level of rowdy, and supportive, seeing as they might know some of players transitioning from club to club.
Notably, the Saints have some winning ways since the mid-90s – which is sure to astound most Minnesotans. St. Paul won the American Association title most recently in 2019, but also won way back in 2004 – the last time the Twins won a playoff game. I think I speak for most Minnesotans when I say I hope some of the Saints’ organizational success rubs off on the Twins here in the future.
Most importantly, however, is the fact that the Saints are here to stay. After averaging around two million fans in attendance league-wide over the last few years, the American Association took a big hit this past season due to the pandemic – arriving shy of the 200,000 fan mark.
Not only do we get to see the Twin Cities finally team up, but even in this uncertain world, there’s some good assurance that it’ll last a while.
Featured photo: St. Paul Saints – saintsbaseball.com